The QJs and CSSPA
The Central States Steam Preservation Association (CSSPA) was incorporated as a non-profit in the State of Iowa on August 6, 2014, by a group of volunteers. These individuals had come from all parts of the USA to help maintain and operate two Chinese built QJ Class locomotives (#6988 and #7081) for the Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS). Since IAIS brought them to the US in 2006, the locomotives were mostly used at community events in towns served by the railroad.
However, in fall of 2013, IAIS decided that the steam program would not continue. One of the driving reasons for the decision was the concern over liability and insurance problems with using volunteers (rather than employees) for a program operated by the railroad itself. At this point the locomotives went into storage and their fate became uncertain.
Considering how much goodwill and community relationships the steam engines had helped create for IAIS in the seven years they had been in the U.S., and the likelihood the locomotives would never operate again or leave the region, the volunteers, in concert with IAIS, decided to form a non-profit organization: CSSPA. The purpose of this organization would be to operate and maintain the locomotives separate from the IAIS to alleviate the liability concern. CSSPA’s mission: to keep steam alive in the central states and educate the public about steam and rail safety. This mission has also led to a partnership with Operation Lifesaver.
Following the incorporation of the non-profit, CSSPA negotiated agreements with the railroad and RDC Corporation, owner of IAIS and the locomotives, to perform the annual maintenance required on one of the locomotives (#6988), in order pass FRA inspection prior to operating again. The work was completed in the beginning of 2016 and after negotiating operating agreements with the railroad, #6988 began operating again in August 2018.
The #6988 completed its final run on October 23, 2021 prior to its FRA-required 1472 inspection on. CSSPA is now working with IAIS and RDC to define the next chapter for the QJs. One thing is for certain: steam in the central states will live on, and the #6988 will be back.
As we move forward, CSSPA is seeking volunteers, donations, sponsors, business, and community partners who wish to help us in our mission. Our common motivation is giving people the chance to still see, hear, and feel the awe-inspiring presence of a steam locomotive in motion. These engines were not “Made in the USA”, but they are historically relevant; have been preserved and improved upon by American volunteers. They have established their own legacy in the communities they’ve been a part of since coming here.